EU calls for embargo on Syrian oil
(CNN) — A day after the United States imposed stiff economic sanctions on Syria, a European Union body proposed an embargo Friday on Syrian crude oil.
In Syria, meanwhile, despite the intensified world pressure for President Bashar al-Assad to halt the violence and step down, his security forces continued their tough offensive against protesters. Reports have emerged of at least 23 deaths and a defiant outpouring of mass demonstrations Friday.
The European Union’s political security committee meeting in Brussels, Belgium, made the embargo proposal.
“We acted pretty quickly and have now got an oil embargo in the works,” said Michael Mann, spokesman for EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton.
Mann said the proposal will be examined by a committee of experts and is expected to be adopted into law. Technically, he said, it’s not a done deal, but the fact that 27 countries are asking for this step indicates that it will be adopted.
The committee, made up of foreign policy experts for the agency’s 27 member states, also agreed to add 15 people and five companies to its sanctions list. Ashton said the designations will be “finalized and published in the coming days.”
Other proposals include stopping technical assistance to Syria from the European Investment Bank and imposing an asset freeze and travel ban on those benefiting from or supporting the regime’s policies. Those will be examined early next week, Ashton said.
“The European Union continues to aim at putting an end to the brutal repression and assisting the Syrian people to achieve their legitimate aspirations,” she said in a statement.
Oil and gas make up about a quarter of Syria’s economy, according to the International Monetary Fund. Much of Syria’s oil sales go to European Union countries, analysts say.
Unrest has engulfed Syria since mid-March as security forces wage a crackdown on peaceful protesters demanding political change.
Violence continues despite al-Assad’s recent claim that military operations have stopped. Demonstrations against the government have occurred for months every Friday after Muslim prayers.
One activist group, the Local Coordination Committees of Syria, called the street presence on Friday “one of the most important during the course of the protest movement” across the country.
“For weeks, the security forces and the military, through their operations, have prevented mass demonstrations. However, in a remarkable step and due to increasing international support for the protest movement and the subsequent morale boost, many protesters have managed to overcome the security and military barriers and begin taking the steps necessary to de-legitimize the government,” the group said.